The tropical papaya does not come to mind for a hobby gardener when he is looking for an eye-catching container plant. Cultivation can certainly be successful, because the sun-kissed Carica papaya feels in good hands in a warm conservatory or bright living room. Here she lets her pretty flowers appear along the long trunk, followed by large, delicious berries. What does the ambitious hobby gardener care if the papaya is neither a tree nor a shrub? It is much more important not to let her lack for anything. The following instructions for growing and caring for the melon tree show how this works.
Table of Contents
- Plant family of the melon tree family (Caricaceae).
- Genus Melon Trees (Carica).
- Name of the species: Papaya (Carica papaya).
- Native to tropical regions of the world.
- Not woody, stiffly upright trunk up to 4 meters high.
- Rare stem flowering: Flowers and fruits grow along the stem.
- A tufted crown with large, deeply lobed leaves.
- Elongated, oval berries weighing up to 5 kg.
- Other designation: papaya tree.
The papaya impresses with unique characteristics that draw attention. So their ‘trunk’ is covered with the scars of fallen leaves. As soon as fresh shoots appear in the crown, a leaf usually falls off in the lower area. As a result, the flowers and fruits arise from the leaf axils. While they have an average weight of about 1 kg in culture, papayas weigh up to 5 kg in the wild. Given that the ‘trunk’ is hollow, it is quite amazing how the melon tree carries this ballast.
While the gorgeous fruits are available in almost every supermarket, pre-matured or mature melon trees are rarely found commercially. Once a specimen has been found, the gardener has to dig deep into his pocket to acquire it. Therefore, the cultivation and propagation by sowing has now prevailed. The following materials should be available:
- Ripe papaya with yellow skin.
- Sharp knife, small spoon.
- 8 cm growing pots.
- Anzuchterde, Kokoshum, Perlite.
- crepe or sandpaper.
- cling film or glass lid.
- Fine jet spray bottle.
Harvest and pre-treat seeds
A ripe papaya can be recognized by its rich yellow color. In addition, the shell should yield slightly under pressure. A green-tinged fruit ripens after a few days. It is cut lengthwise so that the cavity with the numerous black nuclei is visible. Now they can simply be spooned out in order to then clean the seeds from the pulp. When cleaned, the germ protection is clearly visible, which is a water-filled shell around the core. This covering is rubbed down with crepe or sandpaper, otherwise it will take forever for germination to begin. It is important to note that the seeds are sown immediately, because they do not benefit from being stored for days.
If you don’t want to buy seed soil, you can mix it yourself. A peat-sand mix is just as suitable as perlite and coconut hum in a 2:1 ratio. To ensure that organic material is not infected by spores or viruses, it is placed in the oven at 200° for 20 minutes. Disinfection also works in the microwave at 800 watts. The container used must not be tightly closed. If at all, a lid is only loosely on. After cooling, sowing will be tackled.
- Fill the growing pots with substrate, leaving a pouring rim free.
- Plant one seed in each pot and cover with a thin layer of soil.
- Moisten with lime-free water from the spray bottle.
- Cover each jar with cling film or a glass lid.
An optimal location for germination is bright, without blazing sun and warm with at least 25° Celsius, preferably 30° Celsius. Depending on the prevailing season, it is often the comparatively high temperatures that are difficult to sustain. For experienced hobby gardeners, a heatable greenhouse is considered Columbus’s egg in this respect. The seed is protected against dry room air and can develop optimally in the constantly warm and humid microclimate.
The young seedlings receive nutrients for the first time after 2 months at the earliest. The liquid fertilizer is heavily diluted so that the substrate does not become salty. If the cultivation vessel is rooted, each papaya is transplanted into a slightly larger pot.
A dedicated hobby gardener will do his papaya a good service with a high-quality substrate. In contrast to everyday potting soil, various selected components work together here. Broken expanded clay or granulated lava, for example, promote root penetration and prevent capping. Rich humus stores water and transports nutrients to the roots. These advantages come into their own in larger tubs in particular.
- High-quality potting soil based on compost with mineral components.
- Alternatively, you can use your own mixture of garden soil, leaf compost, sand, perlite and coconut hum.
The draining function of the potting soil is essential for the melon tree. Even the slightest hint of waterlogging will lead to the death of the plant. For this reason, purchased soil should be checked for filler content to add perlite, expanded clay or wood fiber if necessary. In principle, peat also fulfills this task. However, this material has the disadvantage that it is mostly infected by fungal spores and does not store water well.
Even in the local regions, a Carica papaya feels like it is in the promised land if it is spoiled with sun and warmth all year round. This is only possible under glass, such as a heated conservatory. Even during the summer months, the outside climate is not suitable for the papaya. During the day the temperatures may be right sporadically. However, the nights are too cold because the mercury column falls below 15° Celsius. And who wants to tow the imposing papaya tree into the house every evening?
- Full sun without long hours of shade.
- Constantly warm temperatures above 25° Celsius.
- High humidity, not falling below 60%.
In order to meet the requirements for humid air, special devices are suitable, which are now available at an affordable price. An indoor fountain serves as a decorative solution, which should be set up as close as possible. It is also practical to fill the coaster with pebbles and water. In this way, the papaya is permanently surrounded by evaporating moisture. Bowls filled with water also fulfill the desired purpose in living rooms, provided they are refilled regularly.
While the papaya cannot get enough of tropical, humid and warm air, the water requirement in the root ball is limited.
- Keep the substrate constantly moist without waterlogging it.
- The more intense the sun’s rays, the more frequently you have to water.
- Always water with rainwater or soft tap water.
If there are no pebbles in the saucer, excess irrigation water that collects at this point is poured out immediately.
Characteristic of the Carica papaya is its great hunger for nutrients. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium should be present in sufficient quantities to cover the high energy requirement. In the year of purchase or after repotting in fresh substrate, there is no need to add fertilizer because the soil has a corresponding supply.
- Add liquid fertilizer every week from April to September.
- A special fruit plant fertilizer provides all the necessary minerals and trace elements.
- The fertilizer preparation must never be applied to dried substrate.
A melon tree should be well, but not overly, nourished. If you overdo it, you fatten your papaya so that it becomes lazy. The plant develops its flowers to attract pollinators and not to please us humans. Consequently, if she receives too much nutrients, she considers her efforts to produce a beautiful flower to be superfluous.
With a cut, the papaya tree can neither be encouraged to branch nor to increased flowering and fruit formation. The plant even cleans withered leaves independently. It seems as if she keeps a precise record of her stock of leaves. If a new leaf thrives at the top of the crown, it consistently sheds an older specimen. Apparently, the melon tree keeps its balance under control in this way, so that intervention by pruning measures is counterproductive.
On the other hand, if the papaya grows too tall, a radical pruning of the leading shoot can be considered in an emergency. The chances of a new shoot are good if the large cut can be closed effectively. This is achieved with natural means, such as fine charcoal powder, which stops the flow of the escaping plant sap.
Winter is a critical time for papayas. Falling temperatures are just as difficult for her as dry heating air. Although it enters a dormant period from October/November, the gardener must not let up his attention at any time.
- The temperature must not fall below 15° Celsius.
- Temperatures between 20° and 25° Celsius are ideal.
- Water only enough to keep the root ball from drying out.
- Do not apply fertilizer from October to March.
Humidity should be kept above 60% during the winter. During this delicate phase, there’s no reason to grow gray hair if the leaves are falling. It is a natural reaction to climatic conditions. The papaya will sprout again next spring.
diseases and pests
If there are health problems with a papaya, these are usually due to neglect in care. A location that is too cold and substrate that is too wet will cause root rot within a short period of time. In this case, there is an immediate need for action to save the plant. The melon tree is repotted in fresh substrate and not watered for some time. At the same time, it moves to a sunny, warm location with at least 20° Celsius. Pests rarely bother the tropical plant, but it is not completely immune to an infestation.
The pests are after the fresh shoot tips of the leaves. From here they spread over the entire foliage within a short time and nest in the leaf axils. The earlier amateur gardeners declare war on them, the more effective environmentally friendly pesticides are.
- Shower the leaves with a strong jet of water from above and below.
- Pack the tub in a plastic bag to protect the substrate.
- Spray the papaya repeatedly with a curd soap solution.
Spreading beneficial insects, such as ladybirds or predatory mites, has also proven to be effective. These little creatures hunt the aphids without harming the melon tree. If there are no more aphids, they simply migrate away.
Especially during the heating period, it is difficult to keep the air humidity at the desired high level. If the air dries up, spider mites will strike mercilessly. In this case, too, a vigorous shower is used as a first aid measure. In addition, the curd soap solution also puts an end to the spider mites. If the infestation continues, systemic preparations, which are pressed into the ground as sticks, help.
Cultivating a papaya in the conservatory or bright living room is a pleasure from the start. What joy when an impressive melon tree slowly develops from the seeds of a papaya fruit you have harvested yourself! When the first flower appears directly from the trunk after 2 to 3 years, it is followed shortly afterwards by the coveted berries. If the Carica papaya is offered a constantly warm and humid climate, it will give the hobby gardener a generous harvest. It is said that papaya fruits that you have grown yourself taste far more aromatic than those bought from the supermarket.